Is the Sibly
There is a birth time for the U.S. that answers very closely to the technique of primary directions, one of the oldest predictive techniques in astrology. Primary directions move two of the main significators of the horoscope, the ascendant and the mid-heaven, to the planets. (1)
The birth time that produces extraordinary primary direction fits is 12:16 pm Local Mean Time which is 12:12:01 pm Local Apparent Time at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1776. It was first published using 12:15 pm LMT in 1900 by the American astrologer John Hazelrigg (1860-1941). (2) There is no doubt about the source for the Hazelrigg time: he got it from an 1851 article in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine that commemorated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In that article entitled, “Our National Anniversary” by Benson Lossing, is the statement, “At a little past meridian on the Fourth of July 1776, a unanimous (3) vote of the thirteen colonies was given in favor of declaring themselves free and independent states..."(4) Hazelrigg almost surely refined the “a little after meridian” comment to 12:15 p.m. LMT based on primary directions. I found slightly better primary direction fits for 12:16 LMT.
There are several other charts used for the United States. The most popular is the one proposed by Ebenezer Sibly M.D. (1751-1799), a British occultist and philosopher in his book, A Complete Illustration of the Astrological and Occult Sciences. (5) This chart is used by many astrologers, but upon close examination, it is obvious that this chart is compromised by mistakes in both arithmetic and methodology.
Sibly was an experienced practitioner who obviously knew how to set up a horoscope and perform more complicated operations, but he made basic mistakes from start to finish in his work, at least with respect to the horoscope of the United States. He may have known how to do directions in right ascension, but for some reason he didn’t perform that operation properly either. The mistakes in Sibly’s work are pervasive, yet he seems to understand his subject well. My opinion is that he may have been dyslexic or suffered from some transposition of numbers or figures because he didn’t catch his errors; yet failing to proof read one’s work is very unlikely. I suspect that he failed to catch his errors because he didn’t see errors upon examination. Whatever his reasoning, the Sibly chart does not produce primary direction fits, astrocartographic fits or accurate solar return symbolism. According to Sibly’s text, the chart attributed to him is set up for London for 10:10 p.m. Local Apparent Time on July 4, 1776. (See figure 1.)
Ebenezer Sibly never set foot on U.S. soil, as far as I know; so most likely the time he used was either related to him by someone else, or he derived it (incorrectly) by determining the arc of direction of Mars to Saturn in the tropical Aries solar ingress for 1776. (6) He miscalculated that ingress of March 20, 1776 by eight minutes and six seconds (of time, not arc); but his explanation of the Mars to Saturn direction is a strange concoction that is really an election in reverse. His statement on the Mars – Saturn direction is the main determination for the Sibly time for the United States. His statement on this score reads as follows:
“We shall now take notice of the time in which this extraordinary revolution should come to its crisis, or completely take place as pointed out by the several significators in the figure. To do this, we must equate the distance of Mars from Saturn, they being the two principal actors in this revolution. Their distance is taken by right ascension according to their latitude; because Mars, which is the significator of Great Britain, is within three degrees of the cusp of the fourth house.
The right ascension of Saturn is----------18 52
The right ascension of Mars is------------ 2 30
Subtract and the remainder is the
Distance of Mars from Saturn------------ 16 22
Which arch (sic) of direction must be converted into time by adding to it the right ascension of the Sun, as taught in the doctrine of nativities; by which rule we are to examine how many days the Sun takes in going that space in the ecliptic; and this being an annual revolution, with the two significators in common signs, which denote weeks, we must therefore allow for each day’s motion of the Sun one week; by which it will appear the crisis or effects of the opposition of Mars and Saturn came up in fifteen weeks and two days from the time the Sun came into the first scruple of the equinoctial sign Aries; at which time to a day, the Americans declared themselves independent of the British government and became a free state. (7)
The procedure laid out by Sibly for finding the arc of direction between Mars and Saturn is not the procedure for finding it by proportional semi-arc, which was well known in his day. He may have used a medieval approximation technique but he apparently referred to Mars and Saturn as significators.
According to William Lilly, the finest English astrologer of the 17th century, moveable signs denote days; common signs denote weeks. Sibly violated that rule if he considered Mars and Saturn significators. (8) Unless he really meant the angles, he deviated from the practice of the day. Either way, his astronomical rationale is unsound.
Regarding the tropical Aries solar ingress, Sibly’s statement that the two significators in common signs denote weeks is equally unsound; moreover the Sun, Moon, Mars and Saturn were all in tropical cardinal signs. The ascendant and mid-heaven of the ingress, which are significators, were in common, that is, mutable tropical signs. His statement that we must allow one week for each day’s motion of the Sun is completely arbitrary. The motion of the Sun in a single day—24 hours—is not commensurate with the motion of the Sun in a week—168 hours, except that a day is one seventh of a week: an unhelpful measure.
In addition, the right ascension (hereafter R.A.) of Mars was 3° 26° 24°, not the 2°30° figure he printed. He may have confused Mars with the Moon, which had R.A. 2° 13' 50". He instructs the reader to add this arc of direction to the R.A. of the Sun to convert it to time, but arc is converted to time by dividing it by 15; furthermore, the R.A. of the Sun at the vernal equinox is 00h 00m 00s. X plus 0 is still X. Let us assume for a moment that the difference between Saturn and Mars in R.A. does equate to the issue of the Declaration of Independence and that days in an ingress do equate to weeks in the real world, not just Sibly’s world. The actual difference between Mars and Saturn in R.A. is 15° 25' 50", which is 15.4305 weeks according to Sibly’s reasoning. That adds up to a little past 3:00 am at London on July 5, 1776 from the moment of the ingress and six and a half days later for the figure, 16° 22', that he printed.
The figure he supplied for the U.S. (9) is cast for London, not Philadelphia. I think it is highly likely that in view of Sibly’s pronounced tendency to make both simple and fairly convoluted mistakes, that he reversed the time that may have been reported to him; that is, he may well have advanced it five hours whereas he should have reduced it by five hours to get the Philadelphia equivalent. Stated differently, in his magnum opus, he gives 10:10 p.m. LAT for London for the U.S. He may have received word that the time for the U.S. was 5:10 p.m. LAT with respect to London which is five hours earlier at Philadelphia. It is remarkable to me that the difference (5h 02m) between Sibly’s time equated to London, 5:10 p.m. LAT, and the time I found, 12:12 p.m. LAT at Philadelphia, based on the article in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, is very nearly the difference in time between Philadelphia and London (5h 00m 06s). If Sibly got it backwards and advanced the time in London, that was already a London time for the Declaration, instead of subtracted it, that should be the case. That scenario seems likely to me in view of the primary direction fits for the 12:12 p.m. LAT birth time. Therefore the near coincidence of the Hazelrigg time and the Sibly time being separated by the arc in longitude between Philadelphia and London may not merely be a coincidence, but rather, a typical Sibly error. One cannot know with certainty but Sibly’s mistakes cast serious doubt on his reliability and conscientiousness or perhaps reflect a learning disability.
The LMT equivalent to the LAT Sibly arrived at is determined by noting the equation of time (hereafter E of T), which is the difference between the R.A. of the Apparent Sun (RAAS) and the R.A. of the Mean Sun (RAMS). Since the E of T is unknown, but doesn’t change during the interval of a handful of minutes, LAT can be treated as
RAAS for 10:10 p.m. LMT: 6h 57m 54s
RAMS for 10:10 p.m. LMT: - 6h 53m 53s
0h 04m 01s = E of T
If the Apparent Sun (AS) is greater than the Mean Sun (MS), the equation of time (E of T) is negative. If the time is given in terms of apparent time and the E of T is negative, add the absolute value of the E of T to the apparent time value to get its mean time equivalent. Then,
10:10:00 p.m. LAT
+ 00:04:01 E of T
+ 00:00:01 acceleration
10:14:02 p.m. LMT
This means that 10:14:02 p.m. LMT and 10:10 LAT are equivalent moments but one must stay in one or the other standard when speaking of civil time. See An Introduction to Western Sidereal Astrology (10) for complete rules on converting between mean time and apparent time and vice versa.
The house system Sibly used was Placidus but none of the house cusps answer to 10:14:02 p.m. LMT (10:10 p.m. LAT) for Placidus, Morinus, Campanus, Porphery, Alcabitius or Regiomontanus cusps. They do, however answer to 9:49:15 p.m. LAT (9:53:16 LMT). Sibly gives an ascendant of 19° Aquarius 49' and a mid-heaven of 13° Sagittarius 12' for 10:10 p.m. LAT but those values are only correct for 9:49 p.m. LAT for this date and place. The latitude of the Houses of Parliament, the seat of the British government, is 51° N 29' 57". The 9:49:15 p.m. LAT time gives a tropical ascendant of 19° Aquarius 50'. His position for the Moon at 24° Aquarius 00' (tropical) is wrong by three degrees, but because the correct position for the time he used gives the right minutes (27° 00'), he probably misread the result of his arithmetic. All the other Placidus house cusps are rounded up to the nearest whole degree from their positions in degrees and minutes for 9:53:16 p.m. He printed a horoscope for the United States with a time that reads: “10:10 p.m.” LAT, which is 10:14:02 p.m. LMT, but whose house cusps correspond to 9:49:15 p.m. LAT, which is 9:53:16 p.m. LMT. Probably he meant 9:49 p.m. but wrote 10:10 p.m. for reasons unknown. The positions of the planets except for Mercury (error of ¾°) and the Moon (3°) are within a few minutes of arc of the correct values. Since both Sibly’s and modern values put the Sun in 13° Cancer (tropical) and the positions of the other bodies correspond to where they should be two hours after nightfall for this date, there is not a problem of the actual day in question or time of day.
Now, let this horoscope be equated to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Since the horoscope he printed is actually set up for 9:49:15 p.m. LAT (9:53:16 pm LMT) at London, the same moment in Philadelphia is the point at issue. Independence Hall, the location of both the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the U.S. Constitution in 1787, is at 75° W 09' 01". In order to look at the same moment in the U.S. as in England, the arc in time between the two locales has to be used instead of a time zone because time zones weren’t adopted until 1884. In this case the difference in arc and the modern time zone is almost identical. The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament is at 00° W 07' 29". The difference in arc between these two locations is,
75° 09' 01" λ Philadelphia
- 00° 07' 29" λ London
75° 01' 32" = 75.025555°
Because 15° of arc = 1 hour of time
75.025555 = 5.00170
5.00170 = 5h 00m 06s
Thus the moment in Philadelphia equivalent to London will be 5h 00m 06 seconds earlier than London. For the convenience of the modern reader the times used hereafter will be expressed in terms of Local Mean Time. It should be borne in mind, however that Local Apparent Time and Local Mean Time are not the same and that Sibly’s standard for 1776 was Local Apparent Time. So then, for the LMT at Philadelphia we have,
9:53:16 p.m. LMT for the λ of Parliament
- 5:00:06 Independence Hall λ slow of Parliament
4:53:10 p.m. LMT at Philadelphia
The most elevated bodies are Saturn and Neptune, which is totally inappropriate for what has become the greatest nation since imperial Rome. This chart is more appropriate to a tyranny, rather than one of the torch-bearers of Western Civilization and England’s legitimate child. Worse, Saturn is elevated over the Sun. It is not uncommon for a Sun square Saturn horoscope, either of a person or an entity, to avoid being fundamentally confounded by such a combination because of other elements; but that usually happens when the Sun is elevated over Saturn and when Jupiter is also powerfully placed in an angle house, angular in a cadent house or makes an aspect to an angle. Saturn and Neptune, as the most elevated planets in the Sibly chart, do not symbolize success against the premier military power of the time: Great Britain. If Saturn is strong in a national horoscope, Jupiter and the Sun need to be stronger for a nation to rise to the first rank among nations.
If the Sibly chart were the U.S. national chart, the American rebellion would likely have been crushed. Two U.S. presidents, Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy had Saturn conjoined to Neptune, as a natal condition, the former in the 9th house and the latter in the 10th. Both were assassinated. Solar returns with Saturn and Neptune as the most elevated bodies commonly symbolize difficult years that require extraordinary extenuating circumstances to work out well. Sun square Saturn with Saturn over the Sun and cadent or succedent benefics, not much elevated, does not constitute symbolism sufficient to place the Sibly chart within the realm of the plausible, much less, likely.
If the tropical Aries Solar Ingress for 1776 set up for London can be considered to have merit, Saturn and Neptune as the most elevated bodies, symbolized trouble for Great Britain on a scale that was out of the ordinary. If the U.S. had a similar horoscope, it would not be reasonable to expect success in the end against England. Sibly did not know about Neptune (discovered in 1846) but his lack of awareness of it did not diminish its affect. Despite these things the Sibly chart is the most widely accepted chart for the United States, with the ominous portent of Saturn and Neptune lording over the chart from on high.
The reason for the date of the first signatures applied to the Declaration of Independence on July 4th—most of the signatures were made on August 2, 1776—is due to criticism of the document after it was submitted to Congress. The Resolution for Independence was drafted in the Second Continental Congress on June 7, 1776. (11) A committee of five was appointed to draft a declaration of independence. Thomas Jefferson prepared the document. The issue after Jefferson’s declaration was examined was the language of the document. Jefferson’s style was considered too florid (12) by the congressmen who reviewed it; as a result about twenty percent of his work was revised or deleted, in particular all reference to the slave trade. The Southern colonies were intransigent regarding slavery. Their agreement to the declaration could not be secured if its abolition were part of the document. Jefferson owned about two hundred slaves at the time; George Washington owned about three hundred slaves then.
The American Continental Congress had issued a Declaration of War against the British crown on July 6, 1775, which, strange to say, did not end the political bond between England and the American colonies. The Resolution for Independence and the Declaration of Independence that does end the political tie with England are distinct issues that did not occur on the same day.
The Hazelrigg Chart
In the Hazelrigg chart, (figure 2) the primary directions of Mars and Saturn provide the symbolism for the beginning of the American Civil War (1861) and its worst year in terms of slaughter (1863). The primary direction to Pluto for this birth time was in play just as the U.S. morphed into a new form of government with a new constitution that was not fully implemented until 1789 when the Articles of Confederation were abandoned. Victory in World War II catapulted the U.S. into the pre-eminent world power consistent with the primary direction to Jupiter (1945). Women’s suffrage finally made it through Congress in 1919 when the Moon in Aquarius became angular by primary direction. Uranus became angular by primary direction when the U.S. simultaneously got Texas and the Oregon Territory within months of each other. The U.S. more than doubled its size overnight in perhaps the best land deal of all time in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase, when France sold an area many times the size of France itself for three cents per acre. The primary direction to Neptune was in play then that relates to extraordinary expansion and unearned gifts, things that are acquired at a discount or benefits that accrue as an accident of birth.
Many more primaries, instructions for computing primary directions and the horoscope of George Washington (with the birth time taken from the family bible) are described in my book, Primary Directions and the Horoscope of the United States, but the first one, the primary direction to Saturn, is the one that has caused many astrologers to reject the Hazelrigg time out of hand. Some of them have been guided by what they think the symbolism for the United States ought to be rather than what was happening on the ground at the time. Upon close examination, however, it is easy to see Hazelrigg’s time borne out via the litany of events that began the history of the United States.
1. Primary directions are similar to but more than a thousand years older than solar arc directions. Solar arc moves the angles (ascendant and mid-heaven) in longitude but the angles of a horoscope are actually calculated in right ascension, an equatorial coordinate, not longitude, an ecliptic coordinate; it is essential not to conflate the units of two different reference frames—the equator and the ecliptic. That is, one cannot add inches to centimeters and have a meaningful measure. In the same way, one cannot add hours, minutes and seconds of right ascension to degrees of celestial longtide. Primary directions avoid this apples and oranges problem by performing the direction in right ascension, as medieval astrologers did it. In addition, primaries take into account where bodies are in three dimensional space (i.e. in mundo) which is almost always different (except for the Sun) than their positions in longitude. This is especially important along the horizon where extremes in declination can make bodies rise or set well before or after their ecliptic degrees. Further, some bodies gain a great deal of celestial latitude when they are retrograde because retrograde planets (especially Mercury, Venus and Mars) are not on the ecliptic at such times. The moon can also be very far off the ecliptic. Primary directions take all this into account; solar arc directions do not.
2. John Hazelrigg, Metaphysical Astrology, (New York: The Philosophic Co., 1900), 16.
3. Actually, contrary to the article in Harper’s, the vote was not unaninous on July 4th. Twelve colonies voted for independence; the New York delegation abstained but voted for independence a week later after receiving authorization from the New York Provincial Congress.
4. Benson J. Lossing, “Our National Anniversary,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine III, no. XIV (July 1851): 155.
5. Ebenezer Sibly, A Complete Illustration of the Astrological and Occult Sciences, vol. 2, pt. 3 (London: R. Noble, in the Old Bailey, 1796), 1053.
6 An ingress is the entry of a body into a new sign (either tropical or sidereal) and represents the position which is 0° 00' 00" of the new sign. Ingresses address the conditions of the period for which they have jurisdiction. A solar ingress is effective for a year but especially during its first three months until the next cardinal ingress comes into play.
7. Sibly, Complete Illustration 1053.
8. William Lilly, Christian Astrology, 3rd ed. (Exeter: Regulus Publishing Co., 1985), 267. Reprint of the 1647 edition.
9. Sibly, Complete Illustration, plate 53.
10. Kenneth Bowser, An Introduction to Western Sidereal Astrology, (Tempe: American Federation of Astrologers, 2012), 211-212. See this for complete rules for converting between apparent to mean time and vice versa.
11. William L. Langer, ed., An Encyclopedia of World History, 5th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1972), 560.
12. Joseph J. Ellis, American Creation (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 55.